One of the reasons the Thunder didn't defend home court in Game 4 against the Rockets was because of a late-game strategy by Houston to foul Andre Roberson on purpose, sending him to the free-throw line where they expected him to miss. Roberson delivered, and his misses played a huge role in the Thunder's loss.
Not all the blame can be placed on Roberson, though. Coach Billy Donovan also was criticized for leaving the forward in the game for so long. But if the Rockets plan to use the "Hack-A" strategy again in Game 5, the coach is going to "trust" his player.
Part 1 of Billy Donovan on Andre Roberson, if the Rockets go to hack-a early. Donovan says he's going to "trust Andre." pic.twitter.com/Acq3ZrLvDn— Erik Horne (@ErikHorneOK) April 25, 2017
"Just trust Andre," Donovan said when asked how he'll handle that situation. "I believe in Andre, and he's a really, really valuable and important piece to our team. Obviously in the moment, in that situation, you'll have to make a decision as a coach for what's best for the team. But for me, I think it's important that I show confidence in him and belief in him that he's certainly a much, much better free-throw shooter than what he has shown in this series."
Roberson is 2-of-17 from the foul line the series. Those numbers are especially bad, but he wasn't too much better in the regular season, making just 42 percent of his foul shots. Making matters worse, the Rockets began laughing at him at the sideline after he continued missing.
"This is for his development and for his growth. He needs to get up there and be in these situations," Donovan said Tuesday. "And obviously if it's not going well, then I'll have to make a decision. But first and foremost, I think it's important that he understands I have confidence and belief in him."
Interestingly enough, Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni is against the "Hack-A" strategy, saying after Game 4, "It's not great for basketball." Having said that, the veteran coach added, "but it's a rule and we'll take advantage of it."
Roberson has played well this series, using his great defensive skills to limit James Harden. He's also improved as a scorer, averaging 13.8 points in four games compared to the 6.6 points he averaged during the regular season, while adding 3.5 blocks and 2.0 steals per game.
His presence on the court is important to the Thunder, which is why the Rockets used this strategy. Part of it is to waste offensive possessions for Oklahoma City, but a bigger part is to get Roberson off the floor.
Of course, there's one way to end all of this talk: make your free throws.